Here’s a Hollywood story for you: it’s the story of a terrific documentary about the Artist behind one of my favorite films of all time, and how it ended up with that Artist tweeting me!
Paul Williams Still Alive
Before you read anything, just watch this trailer:
“Paul Williams Still Alive” is a terrific new documentary about legendary songwriter and 70’s icon Paul Williams.
Here is what Rotten Tomatoes had to say about this terrific documentary: “He won Grammys and an Academy Award; wrote many #1 songs; starred in a Brian DePalma movie; put out his own hit records and albums; was a guest on The Tonight Show fifty times; and is the president of ASCAP…and you might not have heard of him.
In the 1970’s, Paul Williams was the singer / actor / songwriter that emotional, alienated teenage boys all over the world wanted to be, a sex symbol before MTV, when sex symbols could be 5″2 and sing songs about loneliness with the Muppets.
A wistful musical journey that will re-introduce a new generation to Williams’ soulful classics, “Paul Williams: Still Alive” is the charmingly self-narrated story of Stephen Kessler’s lifelong obsession with the former superstar-and what happens when the nostalgic filmmaker finally catches up with him.”
This is a great documentary – both as it looks at the colorful career of Williams, but also follows him now as well…
A Star Is Born! Evergreen!
And yes, Williams won an Oscar for the ballad “Evergreen”, along with Barbra Streisand, from the movie “A Star Is Born”….he also wrote songs that became huge hits for other artists, such as Three Dog Night’s “An Old Fashioned Love Song”, Helen Reddy’s “You and Me Against the World”, and the Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Rainy Days and Mondays”…
“Paul Williams Still Alive” is a great, human, personal documentary about a great Artist…and if you want to get a sense of just how talented he was, check Williams out in one of the greatest movies EVER:
Phantom Of The Paradise – 1974.
This is one of my 5 favorite films EVER. It is Director Brian DePalma’s first masterpiece, a re-telling of “Phantom Of The Opera”, set in the world of rock’n’roll. Watch the vintage trailer:
“THIS CREEP GETS NO COMPS!”
Ok, one of the many great lines in the film is “this creep gets no comps!” It’s a funny and over-the-top look at the music industry, with a soundtrack that captures the essence of music in the 70’s – because Paul Williams wrote a soundtrack that name-checked it all!
Paul Williams stars as Record producer Swan – who steals both the music and the girl (Phoenix) from composer Winslow Leach. Disfigured Leach plans revenge on Swan and his rock palace, The Paradise, and becomes The Phantom.
William Finley stars as Winslow Leach, a talented yet naive songwriter who falls in love with young singer Phoenix, played by Jessica Harper. I have posted a separate “appreciation” of William Finley, who died earlier this year..paste this in your browser, he was an under-appreciated Actor….
In the film, The Phantom only wants Phoenix to sing his songs, so Leach signs a contract with Swan to complete a rock opera based on the life of Faust, for Phoenix to sing…or so he thinks.
Winslow quickly learns there is more to Swan than meets the eye – the moment he has to sign his lifetime contact.
Swan: [holding a contract] It’s all here. Read it carefully, then sign at the bottom in blood. Messy, I know, but it’s the only way to bind. Tradition.
Swan: Ink isn’t worth anything to me, Winslow.
What makes the film so great is the soundtrack full of original songs that look at the state of pop music at the time…
It’s a great soundtrack – and you can get it on itunes and amazon – with songs like “Upholstery” that parodies The Beach Boys:
“Carburetors man, that’s what life is all about!”
While another takes aim at the 50’s revival led by Sha Na Na, and then there is my favorite – the take down of “glam rock!”
“Beef” is David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust mashed into Kiss with a touch of Queen added for flavor. Garritt Graham is hilarious as “Beef”, the singer that Swan secretly plans to open The Paradise with, instead of Phoenix.
“Beef” quickly realizes something is wrong, and wants out – especially when The Phantom visits him in his dressing room in a spot on, classic parody of Hitchcock’s shower scene from “Psycho.”
Beef: “There really is a phantom. He was just in my shower. He threatened my life. He said his music was for Phoenix. Only she can sing it. Anyone else who tries, dies.”
Beef ends up performing of course, with a back band that Kiss fans would recognize…
The film is full of great songs that parody everyone from The Beach Boys to David Bowie and Kiss – and includes the classic ballad sung by Harper, “Old Souls.”
“Phantom Of The Paradise” was a box office bomb when it was released, but thanks to home video, it has become re-discovered as one of DePalma’s masterpieces…really worth buying, because as the tour manager says bitterly to someone waiting in line for the show: “THIS CREEP GETS NO COMPS!”
When Alex and I got married, our first dance was to a song from this film, “Old Souls.” Here it is, a beautiful ballad sung by Jessica Harper in the movie…
“Our love is an old love, baby, it’s older than all our years…”
AS beautiful ballad that “Napata and The Kisses” learned so they could play it as our first dance, and they told us afterwards how much they loved the song…
Paul Tweets Me!
And now the funny ending to this story: on twitter, I follow David Poland of MovieCityNews, and it’s a great website for movies news and analysis – check it out at “MovieCityNews.com”…I also follow David on twitter, and last week I saw that he retweeted a note from Paul Williams, in which Paul acknowledged that he now had a twitter account…so I decided to post this note
John Rieber @johnrieber
@IMPaulwilliams “Phantom Of The Paradise” great soundtrack – we got married to ” Old Souls” as first song -kudos to Paul for Beef!
A day later, I got this reply on twitter:
Paul Williams @IMPaulWilliams
@johnrieber playing my song at yr wedding is heart payment for a songwriter John. Many thanks and blessings …
Hey, nice! So Paul is not only a great Artist, but he writes a nice note to boot! Buy some of the music, and of course the movies if you don’t already have them, and don’t forget:
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